From keeping prices low to encouraging innovation, a healthy level of industry competition benefits both businesses and consumers. However, competition is also one of the most difficult aspects of starting and maintaining your own business. When your competitor is always one step ahead, it can leave you feeling discouraged and even hopeless.

With so many smart and talented people working against you, is standing out from the crowd even possible? We’re here to tell you: the answer is a resounding yes. By embracing trends and adopting a fearless, nimble mindset, your business can shine in even the most crowded of markets.

Sell a Lifestyle, not Features

When most business owners sit down to create marketing content, their first instinct is to discuss features and functionality. However, focusing on tech specs can actually cause your product marketing materials to sound convoluted and irrelevant. Why? Because from a customer’s perspective, it can be hard to understand how a product’s feature translates into a life benefit. That’s why, instead of describing what a product is, you need to explain what it does.

When you make a product’s benefits the core of your product positioning, your marketing efforts will be much more powerful. This image from HelpScout spells out the difference between features and benefits clearly and concisely.

product benefits

Which seems more appealing to the customer? 1 GB of storage doesn’t mean much to most people. But 1,000 songs in your pocket – that’s the kind of benefit a music lover can buy into.

Understand Pain Points

Another thing to keep in mind is that your target market’s pain points might not be what you think they are. For example, the maker of an mp3 player in the image above might think that their customer’s core pain point is lack of storage space. Upon conducting market research, however, they might discover that their customer is more interested in streaming music rather than downloading it. This would change the entire premise of how they market the product, and failing to conduct research would cause their positioning to be misaligned.

The only way to truly know what your customers need is to conduct an industry survey. Be sure to ask open-ended questions and focus on the why and how behind their feelings. When you understand why your customers feel the way they do, you'll be much more connected to their needs and desires. This enables you to play a greater role in influencing the factors that drive their emotions and buying choices.

Be Nimble

Even when things are going well at your company, you should always be thinking of your next move. Why? Because what’s working now likely won’t work five or ten years down the road. Your customer’s needs and tastes will change over time, and you need to be ready to adapt when they do.

We’re not saying you should create a new feature just for the sake of attracting attention. Customers can see through the smoke and mirrors, and a poorly planned approach lacks authenticity. Instead, stay on your toes by embracing new digital technologies as they emerge.

Embrace Social Media

Staying updated with social media is an easy way to keep your company nimble. Unfortunately, it’s often viewed as a low priority job amongst startups, tasked to anyone who has a few minutes to spare.

In truth, the best social strategies involve the entire company. When everyone is tasked with discovering new social strategies and platform features, you’ll gain the perspective of multiple different departments. Armed with the collective minds of your marketing, sales, and product teams, you’ll devise a much more dynamic social strategy that resonates with multiple types of thinkers.

Having more people committed to social media also enables you to enter a niche area of expertise and delve deeper in your strategy than ever before. This doesn’t mean you should embrace every single platform at once. Instead, focus on one or two platforms that make the most sense for your industry and audience. Social media platforms are constantly changing their algorithms and updating their product, so starting with one or two enables you to really focus on mastering these changes without spreading your resources too thin.

Following blogs and newsletters focused on social updates can ensure that you don’t miss a beat when it comes to trends. Snapchat and Instagram both have their own blogs, with snapchat being more product-focused and Instagram being more strategy and utility focused. Social Media Examiner and Social Media Today are helpful blogs that provide daily updates on the latest news and trends in everything social media.

Mastering social updates before your competitors helps you stand out in a number of ways:

Build Trust

As businesses owners, we hear the same advice time and time again. Be authentic. Build trust. As consumers ourselves, it makes sense that our customers choose to spend their money on a brand and product that they trust. But how do we tap into this sense of trust, especially when so much of it is subconscious?

Amplify Customer Service

The most important way to build trust and authenticity is to be accessible. Simply being there for your customers when they need you speaks volumes about your brand and the people behind it. This inevitably ties back to social media, further solidifying why it's so important for you to take advantage of new features and trends.

Think about it this way: what if a customer tries to send you a direct message on Instagram, but your social media manager hasn’t yet figured out how to use the feature and the message gets left unread? That potential customer is going to leave you for your competitors.

On the other hand, brands who respond to their customers promptly on social channels are more likely to build loyalty. As Jayson DeMers points out, 53% of Americans who follow brands on social media are more likely to be loyal toward the brands they follow.

Being accessible on social media also creates positive PR opportunities. You never know when your brand’s social media response is going to go viral. As long as you put the right person in charge and your responses are always positive, you should embrace this strategy fully. And if open and accessible customer communication isn’t at the forefront of your social strategy, it should be.

Engage and Participate

Participate in two-way conversations. Responding to customer questions and complaints should be your key priority, but that shouldn’t be the only time your customers hear from you. To participate in conversations that go beyond basic customer service, consider becoming a guest blogger for an industry publication. If you’ve just launched a productivity app, the GetResponse blog is a great option for guest posting. If it’s a new apparel line you’re promoting, PR Couture could be a good fit.

Discussing market trends and strategies boosts your personal ethos and makes your brand more credible. It also helps your brand name become more recognizable by industry thought leaders and potential partners, which is especially important when you’re just starting out.

Make Waves

At the end of the day, standing out in markets that are crowded and hyper-competitive is all about being proactive. Seek out customer feedback, stay on top of emerging trends, and be a trustworthy voice on the web. You'll see your business begin to pull away from the pack before you know it.